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Title: Mapping Civil Society on the Web: Networks, Alliances, and Informational Landscapes
Author: Gonzalez-Bailon, Sandra
ISNI:       0000 0000 5397 7393
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis tackles two main questions: Why are networks important for civil society? And has the Internet (and in particular the Web) contributed to change civic networks and enhance their efficiency? This thesis follows a twofold strategy to make these questions operational: it draws, on the one hand, on a strictly inferential definition of Civil society, based on a random sampling of the organisations and actors that crowd the political domain, as configured on the Web; and it relies, on the other, on the network that these organisations build with their links to other organisations on the assumption that these citations provide information on alliances and partnerships. The analyses confirm that organisations follow different strategies in building their online connections, and that these strategies are not independent of the resources that organisations manage offline. Organisations that receive a higher number of links from other organisations are older, richer and with a better access to traditional media; they also have the most visited sites. Post-Internet organisations (those that were born with the Web) do not have any particular advantage in terms of visibility: they do not attract more links from other organisations, and they do not attract individuals searching the Web. The traffic flow of sites is significantly related to the centrality of organisations (that is, to how many other organisations link to them). The analyses identify two mechanisms underlying traffic flow: the impact of search engines' rankings on individual access to sites (rankings give more importance to sites with a higher number of incoming links), and the impact of offline visibility. The number of times organisations appear cited in the main international newspapers is positively correlated with the traffic flow of their sites and with their centrality. These results lead to three main conclusions: one, the Web has not radically changed the distribution of public exposure or empowered the poorest agents: publicising views is cheaper, but getting an audience stilI depends on the level of resources that the organisations publishing contents on the web manage offline; two, the Web grants nonetheless a (slightly) more equal visibility when compared to more traditional forms of media; and three, because of that, the Web plays a more efficient role in merging a diversity of views, preventing concentrations of power, and diffusing opportunities for mobilisation. In spite of this, the Web exhibits a tendency towards centralisation that might soon undermine its technical possibilities to tum the public sphere into a more plural space.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Oxford University, 2008 Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available